Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


RY COODER WATCH: Where Have All the Followers Gone?

Had a series of ultimately gratifying phone exchanges w/Ry Cooder last week. I say “ultimately,” because while I didn’t end up with the feature article I wanted to do on him for The Fretboard Journal, the conversations were meaty, and, for Ry Cooder, pretty candid.

For the record, I was the one who decided to 86 the article, not Ry. The first time I spoke to him about it he said he’d do it for me as an old friend, but that he didn’t want to do anything w/media anymore since he got burned by someone or something in the English press, I think around 2007.

Actually, I’m having trouble finding the offending UK Observer interview/article. My guess is that Ry was sucker-punched into thinking his candor (“crankiness”) about the music biz, et al, was off the record, but I can’t seem to find any interview with him that isn’t extravagantly complimentary. So, I’ve decided to come back to this subject when I’ve done a little more research.

In the meantime, we talked about the music business, an upcoming (Nov.) tour he needs to do “for economic reasons,” his seeming invisibility to old fans and even friends—“Al, I’ve offered to give copies of my last few CD’s to friends and I got no action!”—, his disenchantment with his own output…I can see why, when seeing this on paper, he might seem cranky. But that’s not the spirit in which any of his words were spoken.

Ry is pretty self-effacing for someone as over-the-top talented as he is. At the end o’ the day, I think he just wishes the world were a little more generous and less craven with its denizens. But who doesn’t? He’s just more specific and articulate than most.

And he misses the following he’s had for so long.

I’ll come back to Ry at another time. There are just too many unanswered questions I have for and about him, which, as an old and loyal friend, I don’t feel like trying to answer myself.

  1. May Says:

    Al, I’ve just finished sending a link from this site to Tom Ewing, who’s looking for first-hand information to complete a new biography of Bill Monroe. That done, I’ve come back to check out some of your comments about Ry Cooder — who briefly made it clear to me that he’s reluctant to let Ewing ask him a few questions about his brief stint playing banjo for Bill Monroe.

    What you say here about Ry being leary of the media fits this very recent exchange. I’ve been out of touch with Ry since the late sixties, but I have followed his music pretty closely and I have deep respect for the way he has used his talents over the last forty-odd years. I think it’s pretty sad that even Ry feels abused by the media. It’s almost as if achieving artistic success in the music world entails a heavy price.

    Maybe I’m better off without “success” in those terms. You and I certainly know about lots of folks who have paid heavy prices for it. Nothing new in this thought, but it’s worth remembering.

Leave a Reply